Playing, Learning, Being Together
Hatti and I planned to keep the group running over the holidays, for continuity, and to welcome older siblings, who may usually be at school, into the group. Our first half term session showed us we had made the right decision! Parents who usually work during term time accompanied their partner and child to the group, and other friends, who have been so supportive of the group, but unable to come due to working in a school also came along.
Having some new faces and older siblings brought a new dimension to the group. The children, of different ages and backgrounds, some schooled, some unschooled, took their time exploring the simple handmade toys. They enjoyed stacking the boxes for the toddlers to knock over, rolling string balls down huge cardboard tubes, and the imaginative play with the train moved on to a whole new level! Extra carriages were needed as they embarked on a train ride to London with superheros as train drivers! It really is great to see all the children involved, creating and participating in the scene in their own way. This simple freeplay, relatively unhampered by adults, shows that children do not need to be constantly stimulated, or to have expensive, electronic toys to keep themselves occupied. Today, the space, simple objects, and a gentle parental presence was all that was needed to fuel their imagination and creativity.
Let’s create, when we’re ready!
As usual, The Settlement’s artist had a range of fabulous activities. Children lay down on some rolled out wallpaper whilst their parents drew around their body. Parents then encouraged the little ones to show where the different features and body parts would go, then together decorated this life sized art. Pipe cleaners and ribbons for hair, stickers and glitter wherever and everywhere! We also made rainbow spiders for Halloween from egg boxes and pipe cleaners. Children took their time, firstly exploring the toys, then as one child began drawing around themselves, another noticed and became involved, until there were as many life size pictures as there were children.
Each child came to the activity when they felt comfortable and ready, and brought with them their own creativity and enthusiasm. Parents didn’t dictate when or how long a child should stay involved in the activity, but they supported them as needed, then continued the activity when their child had finished. This process felt natural and organic, each child contributing in their own time and their own way without external pressures, and each taking home creations they are proud of.
During the yoga session we connected to the breath and released the shoulders by making gentle wings for imaginary birds and butterflies. The overwhelming theme shared through our circle time was
“enjoying spending time with our children”
For most families, school takes up the vast majority of their regular week, either for parents, children or both. We heard how the half term week brings a valued oasis, time for parents and children to share simple activities such as painting, baking and decorating. Parents happily shared stories of their siblings playing together, and the joy they feel upon seeing their children happy and having pride in themselves. These moments mirrored the ethos of Beautiful Beginnings; valuing parents and children, sharing simple activities, cherishing time together.
Letting go of some of the stresses and complexities of parenting for a while, and simply enjoying spending time with our children, sharing simple, gentle activities seems to bring peace, joy and happiness to all. Yogic philosophy reminds us that stress only causes us problems when we don’t put down our burdens and nourish ourselves and our relationships for a little while. Our burdens and stresses will always be there to pick back up again, should we so desire, once we have enjoyed some soft, deep breathing, gentle yoga postures, a walk in nature, or some simple sharing with our children.
“Cherish the moments and the years will take care of themselves”
Our snack time this week was especially special, as Carolyn brought along delicious vegan chocolate cookies. They were enjoyed by all, having the perfect consistency for teething toddlers and parents alike. Keep checking the blog for the exclusive recipe!
“Lets go outside and have some fun, shoes on, coats on, everyone!”
A Wishing Tree
Our outside time today saw children and parents alike foraging for autumn leaves to be laminated and stuck onto an autumn collage. Little hands enthusiastically collected an array of yellow, red, orange, brown, green and yellow leaves, as well as some beautiful autumn flowers. The little ones were keen to share the fabulous garden and secret woodland area with their parents. Ali told us how the woodland meditation circle had been created by one of her community groups who had taken a real pride and ownership of their creation. How inspiring to hear how people can move forward in their lives and come together to create a beautiful woodland space, channelling their energy into nature, art and creativity. The result is an enchanted woodland meditation area enjoyed by all who discover it. Thank you to all involved!
Our session ended with Ali’s beautiful idea of the children sticking their leaves onto the tree and making a wish! I wonder what they wished for…